Will Jerry West be a catalyst for change for the Clippers after leaving Warriors?

Jerry West’s departure from the Golden State Warriors for the Los Angeles Clippers won’t save the Clippers, either in a perilous free agency beginning July 1 with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and J.J. Redick unrestricted, or beyond should those three return for another run with the club. And West’s departure won’t sink the Warriors, who likely will have little trouble sustaining their momentum without him. So while this is not a league-altering move, it’s not something to brush over. Here’s what matters (and does not) regarding West’s move. 

Warriors are not short on brains

Golden State’s talented roster makes anyone look smart. They have arguably the two best shooters in NBA history, and Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green. With Steve Kerr on the sideline, it doesn’t take a Mensa membership to run the club. 

Beyond that, the Warriors have significant brain power atop the league’s best infrastructure. They have a GM who balances careful vs. aggressive in Bob Meyers, a strong analytics and health sciences group, adequately funded resources and an owner who will spend what it takes to be great. Losing West is losing a good voice in the room, but the Warriors’ approach to team building has always been collaborative under Joe Lacob and Peter Guber. Even without West, they will not suffer for insight. Building this juggernaut has taught every member of the team a wealth of lessons … and, again, they have Durant. 

West helped generate balance

West wasn’t the only voice saying no to a proposed Kevin Love-for-Klay Thompson deal back in 2014, but his was a loud one, according to multiple reports and Mychal Thompson. West served as an old school counter-balance to the new-age Warriors. There are no analytics suggesting what a Love-for-Thompson swap would have meant to the Warriors. But we do know West isn’t big on analytics, to the point of him saying he doesn’t see them having a lot of success.

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There certainly is evidence some teams’ efforts to go in that direction too far have failed or met with limited success. And the balance West brought will be missed by the Warriors, because no on else brings his mix of experience, knowledge and accomplishment. You can bring in an old-school guy but it’s unlikely he will carry the weight West does. You can bring in a championship figurehead, but he likely won’t bring West’s acumen. In a “light-years ahead” organization, West provided necessary gravitational pull. 

West can help the Clippers

West is known for being notoriously strong-willed, and the Clippers need a strong voice in a front office where the coach also is the head of basketball operations. While conflict can be problematic, it also can also be a catalyst for progress, which this franchise can use. 

West also is smart and has a keen eye for talent (he traded for Kobe Bryant and recognized the value of Green and Klay Thompson early) and carries weight seldom seen in NBA circles. If West shocks the Clippers into a new state, it could be a very beneficial relationship. If Paul stays, West will find someone with whom he a similar competitive obsession. There are not many human beings who fit that description. If Griffin stays, West will find someone who shares his reported pattern of self-criticism. 

Also known as being strong-willed, Doc Rivers won’t value a lot of opinions over his own, but West’s view might be one Rivers accepts. And if Rivers departs for other (if not greener) pastures, West could provide perspective for a franchise in transition. 

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West was ready to go

West’s two-year extension was up and by his own account he was ready for a new challenge. But SI.com also reported a rift between West and Warriors ownership: 

Sources say that a strain had developed between West and the ownership group, which is headed by hedge-fund legend Joe Lacob and Hollywood heavyweight Peter Guber. But West said he would not address those reports. One thing is clear: It was his decision to leave.

via Jerry West heads back to LA in search of new challenge | SI.com

If true, it isn’t the first time this has happened. The Lakers and West have had a complicated relationship since West resigned in 2000. He and Phil Jackson did not get along, and since West has remained a beloved Lakers legend but held on the outside. There were reports the Lakers were interested in hiring West before Magic Johnson joined up. 

West’s challenging passion can benefit a team, it can also grind away, so how well or long he will work with the Clippers is in question. He won’t be seen aside from the occasional radio or print interview. But if you’ve paid attention at all to West’s celebrated, fascinating basketball life, it won’t be boring.

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